Sunday, September 5, 2010

Part Five: Lost But Not Forgotten

What the people in the cars were thinking was anyone’s guess. One thing they all did realize, however, was that there was a wild buffalo in the middle of a road with a woman dressed in a very silly outfit, yelling and gesticulating in its face. They weren’t getting out to help for no amount of money.
And what Gay was thinking as she ran after Buffy, who, then, skipped out of the road to join Scotty in Edgar’s parents’ vegetable garden, was, “Why aren’t any of these people in all these friggin’ cars helping me herd the buffalo and the steer back into their pasture? What’s the matter with everybody?” For at least fifteen minutes Gay first ran after Buffy, and Buffy, prancing lightly into the air, leaped away and galloped on tippy-toes up through the garden, mangling tomato plants and zucchini plants as she went. With Scotty right on her heels, he plunged, not nearly as light on his feet as she, clomping at a gallop, over the garden. Then, spying a particularly lush patch of grass, they both stopped to eat.
Gay was frantic, running another quarter mile to get to the patch of grass at which the two stopped. Meanwhile the cars and trucks, many of which she had noticed as she raced past them, sat stock-still. And most of the pick-ups had men in them—MEN! Why in the world wasn’t anyone helping her round up the animals? Were they afraid? She couldn’t believe no one would help, but she didn’t have much time to ponder the questions.

In an effort to keep weight gain, a hereditary trait born to most all of Pennsylvania Dutchmen and women, to a minimum, Gay had long ago taken up running. Daily she put on her sneakers and headed out along the woods where Edgar kept a mowed path for her to run and ride the horses. At last her stamina came in handy in a practical sense: for chasing down escaped animals. The main trouble was, with very little effort the two animals could bound away as soon as she ran up to them, and while their steps were three times hers, they covered more distance with less effort. Herding them on foot seemed futile: why would they ever go back into their comparatively barren pasture when all this wonderful grass was outside their pasture. The task was daunting.
By some stroke of luck, however, Gay charged up to Buffy, arms out and spitting syllables Buffy found distasteful, “Git awt! Sh—sh—sh—shh! Sh—sh—sh-shht! Sh-sh-sh-sht! Go on! Get back!” Buffy obviously didn’t liked being “shushed,” and she, with Scotty lumbering behind, finally trotted indifferently into the pasture with Edgar’s father closing the gate behind them.
When the auto audience saw the animals finally locked into their pasture, Gay got a horn-blowing ovation from the cars backed up on Cherryville Road. Drivers tooted their horns, and Gay heard a couple others cheer. Exhausted, Gay raised an arm to acknowledge their support then disappeared, acutely aware of her silly garb, behind the farmhouse until the traffic had disappeared. She locked the animals out of the pasture with the torn fencing, and that evening Edgar fixed it.
Buffy continued to leap the fence a few times a month, and each time Scotty barreled down the fence so that he could be with her. But the neighbors and travelers in this area, ones that used the road regularly, soon got used to driving slowly on that stretch of Cherryville Road where on any day Buffy could be standing in the road or out in the middle of an unfenced alfalfa field. The Balliets received many nonchalant calls from people on their way to work, “Your buffalo and steer are standing by the side of the road again. They must’ve escaped.” And then Gay and Edgar would go down to the farm and herd them back into the pasture.

Over the years of Edgar’s being a large animal veterinarian, he has had some clients finding it difficult to pay. Their resolution: give us another animal we don’t need in exchange for services. So, under these conditions we received a llama as payment. So, Edgar brought home Larry the llama, put him into the same back barn stall that Scotty and Buffy adjusted in, and in two weeks he let Larry out into the field. By now Edgar had begun supplementing the pasture grass with feeding hay morning and evening.
Larry immediately latched onto the only remaining sheep, but shortly after being let out into the pasture, he found himself the victim of two bullies: Scotty and Buffy. By then, Scotty was sporting two two and a half -feet-long pointy horns. He was a huge animal, weighing well over a ton, and he knew to use his horns to his advantage. Lar;ry had a taste of Scotty’s horns on many occasion. If Larry happened to be in Scotty’s way in the barnyard, Scotty shook his horns at Larry, and the llama scooted out of the way. Because Larry was the weakest of the animal family, he was the one the bigger animals picked on—no different from diffident kids being picked on by the school bullies.
One morning Edgar had gone across the street to the barn early in the morning to throw hay to the animals. He heard a high-pitched whining coming from the back stall. He ran, opened the door, and found Larry pinned in the corner, Scotty looming over him. Larry had sat down in a submissive posture, and Scotty was brandishing his horns in a threatening manner, warning Larry not to move or he’d give him a good poke.
Edgar yelled, Scotty turned to look, then Edgar took the pitchfork and waved it at Scotty. “Hey, ya big bastard!” Edgar yelled as all 2,000 pounds of Scotty squeezed out the barn door. “Let Larry alone!” Edgar decided then and there to get Gay another present—this one for being a wonderful, tolerant wife—a donkey.
From another client who had some trouble paying his veterinary bills, Edgar received a donkey, an animal, he had heard, likes llamas. Edgar’s reasoning for accepting the donkey was because Larry needed protecting from Scotty and Buffy. So, one day a mammoth jenny was delivered to the farm and put into the pasture with Scotty and Buffy. At this point Scotty and Buffy were the royal keepers of the jewels: the pasture. Each took turns calling all the shots and deciding pasture decorum for the one lone sheep, Lois, and Larry. Of course, Larry and Lois, had absolutely no rights in Scotty and Buffy’s pasturedom. But the tides turned immediately when Sophie, the donkey, arrived.
Sophie was a yearling when Edgar brought her to the farm as Larry’s bodyguard. Immediately the llama and donkey became good friends, and, as well, Scotty and Buffy didn’t care for the donkey, who would have no funny business and who could have cared less who thought he or she was boss of the pasture. Sophie was her own boss.
One day while Edgar was working in the barn, he heard Larry’s pitiful wailing, and, figuring Scotty was bullying him again, he ran to help. But Sophie had gotten there first. Sure enough, Scotty had Larry pinned in the corner, and he was shaking his huge horns at him. Sophie galloped into the barn and, seeing Larry cowering at Scotty’s feet, went immediately to Larry’s defense. She ran into the stall and turned around. With that Scotty turned his huge, concrete-block head toward her, and “BLAM!” her back legs shot him a double-barreled kick to the forehead.
Edgar watched, shocked. For a second Scotty just stood there, and in another second, he simply dropped to his knees. Edgar had no bell to ring as they do in the boxing matches, but for sure Sophie had knocked him out for a few seconds. Minutes later Scotty got up. Then, on shaky legs, he lumbered out the barn and headed to the pasture. Never again did he pick on Larry. Sophie had fixed his head right.

Buffy, though she didn’t pick on Larry and so didn’t get into any tussles with Sophie, busied herself leaping the fence. Her habit became so routine that Edgar decided just to let her go. Several times he watched her leap over, eat for an hour or two, and then she hopped back over the fence to be with Scotty. On the other hand, depending on Scotty’s neediness to be right alongside Buffy, he either did or didn’t plow through the fence. One time Buffy’s escape even hit the local newspapers with an article entitled, “Where the Steer and the Buffalo Roam.” Edgar spent many days fixing and re-fixing fencing.
One evening Scotty and Buffy had escaped their pasture for the last time. This time someone had called the state cops. Gay’s father and Edgar managed the herding, though dusk had already settled, and darkness was rapidly descending. Gay’s father, Ralph, was the first one on the scene: Scotty and Buffy were a half mile from the farm—still on Balliet farmland—but far from the pasture where they belonged.
When the cop car pulled up, and the officer saw Ralph, a man in his late sixties, yelling and waving his arms in Scotty’s face, the cop said, in the bravest voice he could muster, “I think he’s gonna charge.” With that he took out his revolver, and Ralph said, “What do you think you’re gonna do with that gun?”
The cop said, as Scotty watched him intently chewing grass, “He looks like he’s gonna charge. If he does, I’m gonna shoot.”
“Listen, asshole—this steer is not about to charge anybody. He’s just having a good time eating grass. Now, go find something better to do, and my son-in-law and I will get this critter back in his pasture.” Probably relieved to be dismissed from that job, the cop got back in his car and drove away. Hours later, after the sun had set, Ralph and Edgar finally got the two escapees back to their home.
That incident was the back-breaker. The phone was always ringing, “There’s a buffalo and something else really big and red-headed standing in a field without fencing.” So, Edgar arranged for Buffy to go back to the Game Preserve. Though Scotty was devastated to lose his buddy, he eventually adjusted. Buffy rejoined her old herd at the Game Preserve and began having lots of buffalo babies.

Scotty was always the pensive type, so characteristic of bovines in general. As he got older, he was content to lie in the shade under his mulberry tree and chew his cud. Lois eventually died as did Larry. Edgar had another burro given to him as payment for a vet bill, and the burro, Benji, bred Sophie, and together, they had Thumbelina. Scotty learned to accept Sophie and her entourage, but during his last years his was king of the pasture and kept mostly to himself, except for accepting hand-outs from people visiting the farm and dog biscuit treats from Edgar and his father.

No comments:

Post a Comment